“The people of Eastern Ghouta mock the news of exit corridors”
Pro-Assad attacks on Thursday killed at least 13 more civilians in East Ghouta, near Syria’s capital Damascus, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
White Helmets rescuers, activist Abdelmalik Aboud, and Fayez Orabi, spokesperson for the opposition’s health directorate, confirmed the killings in attacks on several towns across the area of more than 350,000 people. A child and two women were among those slain.
Since February 18, the bombs, missiles, shells, and rockets have killed almost 700 and injured thousands. At least 13 medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
On Thursday, a second child died from injuries suffered during a suspected chlorine attack last week on the town of Shaifuniya.
The Assad regime and its allies have stepped up the assault on East Ghouta since early February in preparation for an invasion or to force a capitulation. To cover the attacks and stave off international intervention to halt them, Russia has declared both a “humanitarian pause” of five hours per day and a “humanitarian corridor” which exists in name only.
The people of Eastern Ghouta mock the news of exit corridors — they did not believe it for a second because they have lost all confidence in the regime’s credibility — particularly because the shelling has not stopped, and neither the Russians nor the regime have expressed any seriousness in keeping civilians out of the war.
The shelling has not stopped. The [Syrian] regime has not abided by the timings of the ceasefire. The violations of the truce are constant — 24 hours a day.
Thaer Hijazi, the director of the East Ghouta-based Violations Documentation Center, echoed:
Even if people do want to leave—how can they? Bombings are everywhere in East Ghouta.
How can someone go from Douma to the crossing when it’s 7km away? Is he supposed to walk?
Aid agencies said the five-hour pause is too brief to allow them to bring assistance into East Ghouta, where the Assad regime has tightened a five-year siege. Even before the recent assault, scores of people died from lack of food and medicine.
Activist Abu Salem al-Shami explained that people are not walking in the streets as they have “no faith” in any ceasefire:
There were people being killed from the moment the so-called ceasefire was announced. The warplanes are constantly in the sky, day and night. A real truce would mean that people can leave their homes, buy food and drink and that humanitarian aid would be able to come in, but that hasn’t happened.
It’s the exact opposite.
Samir Izzadin, a 31-year-old Douma resident, said, “The siege and bombardment is indescribable. If the path to the corridor were safe, and people were not afraid of human rights violations by the regime, they would leave.”
Izzadin also cited fears of forced consciption of East Ghouta’s men as a barrier to departure.
Since Russia declared its “corridor” on Tuesday, only two people have departed. They are a Pakistani couple whose fate has been discussed between the Assad regime and the Pakistani Embassy for months.
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) March 2, 2018
On the ground, pro-Assad forces continue their attempt to take the Housh al-Dahwahra area. After days of attacks, pro-Assad units occupied the area but rebels, who say they have inflicted large number of casualties, say they retook the territory on Thursday.
A local observer wrote, “Since the area is totally destroyed by massive airstrikes and shelling — hence static fortifications ain’t working in favor of rebels any more — I expect lots of hit-and-run operations from both sides in the coming days.”
“93% Damage and Devastation”
In an interactive pictorial feature, the BBC summarizes the widespread devastation across East Ghouta, with 93% of buildings damaged or destroyed in one district:
Claims: Turkish Shelling Kills At Least 18 Pro-Assad Fighters
Both pro-Assad and opposition accounts are reporting the killing of pro-Assad forces by Turkish shelling on the Afrin front in northwest Syria.
A pro-Assad blog puts the death toll at 18, while a pro-opposition activist reports even higher losses:
#AfrinOp: yesterday at least 2 dozens (pro-Assad) Popular fighters were killed by Turkish bombardment on #Sharan front, heaviest death toll since they entered #Afrin region 10 days ago. pic.twitter.com/RKfcArityw
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) March 2, 2018
The Assad regime and its allies tried to move forces into Afrin city last month, but were repelled by Turkish artillery fire, pulling back about 10 km (6 miles).
Turkey: 8 Troops Killed, 13 Wounded in Afrin Operation
Turkey’s military has announced one of the deadliest days for its troops in the six-week offensive against the Kurdish canton of Afrin in northwest Syria.
The military said eight soldiers were killed and 13 wounded in operations.
Doğan News Agency reported intense fighting in Afrin between Turkish special forces units and Kurdish YPG militia who mounted an ambush with the help of tunnels.
A Turkish helicopter sent to rescue the wounded had return after being hit, as the area was shelled to allow an evacuation.
Turkey and Syrian rebels launced attacks on January 18 to take Kurdish-held territory. While all areas on the border have been secured, the offensive has still not moved into towns and cities, holding the high ground above areas such as Rajo and Jinderes.
Turkish media are reporting fighting inside Rajo on Firday.
Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said today that 41 Turkish soldiers and 116 Free Syrian Army troops have been killed in the offensive.
the Turkish military claims at least 2,295 YPG fighters have been “neutralized” — killed, wounded, or captured — in the operation.